A red lace bodycon dress and matching arm things (what do you call elbow-length gloves which stop at the wrist?) might not be everyone’s idea of cultivated attire, but I think we can all agree that Cassandra inWayne’s World proved to us Ballroom Blitz can be thrashed out by a lady, never mind what she’s wearing. The Sweet’s 1973 hit is kind of tough to sing: you’ve got to have humour, gravel, sauce and belt-range all up in your voice to get it right. And if you want to hear it done so right, check out Smoking Martha’s own nightingale Tasha absolutely killing it on the band’s Facebook page. It’s an apposite intro to what you can expect from Smoking Martha’s original wares, which mesh Tasha’s one-of-a-kind voice with dynamic rock ‘n’ roll riffs, electric lead breaks and one enormous metal- and jazz-fuelled drummer named Pablo.
“I’ve known Tash for a fair long time,” says Mick, guitarist and founder of the outfit. “Five years or something. I’d just been playing in a punk band, [something like] NOFX. I just knew Tash through a couple of friends. I think she used to sing when she was at school, and then she sort of stopped. We were at a friend’s party and she was singing when she was real drunk, and I was like ‘Oh fuck. Let’s see if we can write some songs,’” he laughs. The two originated from the Gold Coast, and moved to Brisbane about six months ago to find some bandmates who could turn their acoustic set into a louder and bigger beast. “We couldn’t really find anyone on the Gold Coast that was sort of suiting it,” Mick explains. “There’s a fair bit of [punk rock] there but there’s probably three venues where any band that’s loud can really play. Kind of makes it a pretty tough break there: even just getting a show takes months.” Shortly after relocating, the duo scooped Aaron on rhythm guitar, Chris on bass, and the “big, big badass-looking” Pablo. “He’s like rock ‘n’ roll as all fuck; he’s huge. If people fuck with us we go ‘Hey, have you met my friend?’ and he’ll just bop ‘em on the head,” says Mick. “He holds a really solid beat, but it’s got a lot of swing to it as well. It gives it a little bit of a different sound, and makes it really cool.”
The production sound on the two tracks available on SoundCloud is distinctive, very like No Doubt in their early days with clean, distinctive ribbons of lead guitar. “It was just going to be a demo: not to show anyone, just to sort of get the songs in order,” Mick says of their recent time in the studio. “We just went to my mate’s little studio: Tim at Crossfire Music. We tracked [the songs] there, and Tim recorded it all, and it sounded pretty good. We thought ‘Shit, we could actually use these.’ It turned out really good. [Tim’s] good mate Jarrod mixed them. They did a really good job.”
The band have landed consecutive shows in three of Melbourne’s best venues for sincere live rock: Cherry Bar, Vineyard and Lyrebird Lounge. Bassist Chris is originally from Melbourne and so had an idea of which places he wanted to target. “[He] said ‘They’re the best ones to go to, so we’re just going to try and play those.’ I looked them up, and they look amazing... we’re pretty pumped about that,” enthuses Mick. After seeing Fu Manchu in Brisbane and coming out highly impressed with the support act Matt Sonic and the High Times, Mick discovered the latter had just completed a residency at Cherry and became extra excited to be gracing the same stage. Chris is also responsible for the band’s vivid promo artwork, which boasts a fat Goodies style font smoked up against a shot of Tasha at the mic. “He’s got the full psychedelia vibe; it’s cool because he’s put us onto bands we’d heard of, but [hadn’t listened to],” says Mick. “Jefferson Airplane, like this rad, 60s psychedelia kind of stuff.”
Smoking Martha’s hearts are clearly with Melbourne’s on the live music venue issue – there’s a graphic posted on their site which says ‘Support Your Scene: Don’t Kill Live Music.’ This coupled with the fact that all three of the group’s shows will be free means that there’s an even greater reason, if you needed something beyond having a frenzied dance while channelling Cassandra (or you can be Garth if you want), to see this colourful five piece do their thing.
BY ZOË RADAS
SMOKING MARTHA support Vice Grip Pussies at Cherry Bar on Wednesday August 22, and headline at The Vineyard on Thursday August 23 and Lyrebird Lounge on Friday August 24.